GREENOCK Wanderers youth academy is providing young local rugby players with opportunities to develop their talent.

Despite lockdown restrictions, the club's youngsters are continuing to go from strength to strength with a home-based training programme issued by academy manager Istok Totic.

Players are picked on the back of their performance and attitude during their club team sessions and games and invited to either take part in the skills-only or full academy programme which consists of strength and conditioning as well as skills.

At the academy every player is provided with the tools to better both physical and mental aspects of their game.

The academy currently has 36 participants in all midi-section age groups from under-13s to under-18s.

They are split into three age groups, with the young talent (under-13/14), teen talent (15/16) and senior talent (under-18).

The work ongoing with the age groups differs to suit their stage in development both in aspect of skills and strength and conditioning.

The usual full programme timetable would consist of two skills sessions and two strength and conditioning sessions per week on top of the two times they train/play with their team.

Currently, and in the previous lockdown, the players are issued a strength and conditioning programme and skills sessions to work on at home while they all have two online sessions where their ongoing work is discussed and they get on with some tasks/learning in relation to the mental skills for rugby, nutrition and video analysis.

The content of the programmes and these sessions is age adapted.

Istok's aim is to develop young players to make the step-up to senior team level.

He told the Tele: "What players want to achieve from taking part in the programme is probably different and subjective to every individual, however, the academy exists to provide a pathway for talented players to develop to their maximum potential and easily make the transition to senior rugby when it comes to that.

"Further to this we hope to help the players represent the club at regional and national level in which regard the academy has succeeded over the years with Wanderers having numerous regional representatives and one national representative who were all academy participants.

"My job is to make sure the whole programme runs smoothly, to keep communication with the parents, make up programmes, manage sessional staff and deliver sessions."

Istok played for the Wanderers last season and is enjoying his role as a coach at Fort Matilda.

The Serbia international hopes to continue the good work started by former Wanderers academy boss Brendan McGroarty, pictured.

He said: "I started playing rugby since the age of 10 in my hometown Belgrade, Serbia.

"I have represented my country over 20 times and have experienced some professional/performance environments which makes me love this job even more, being able to transfer what I experienced to young players to the best of my ability and conditions we have at the academy.

"Having played for the Wanderers last season, I have gotten to love the club and its people which makes my job even better.

"What the club is doing for its young players with this talent academy is massive and very rare, not many clubs have the people willing to provide these extra opportunities to develop young talent.

"I guess in that we really need to give respect to the people that founded the academy, the academy director John McDougall and the first academy manager Brendan McGroarty who drove the whole project to success."